The Restored Disciple Wants More Fellowship (8:1-4)
1Oh that you were like a brother to me who nursed at my mother’s breasts! If I found you outside, I would kiss you, and none would despise me. 2I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother – she who used to teach me. I would give you spiced wine to drink, the juice of my pomegranate. 3His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me! 4I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.
Verses 1-4 are the second half of the woman’s response to the king’s expressed delight in her. In the previous verses (7:11-13), the king and the woman have been exploring his domains, looking at his fields and his villages; his fields are places of labour and the villages are where his servants live and receive refreshment and rest from him. Then they went to examine the vineyards to see if there were any thriving fruits; this was a picture of self-examination. The self-examination was followed by the woman giving to him old and new fruit to enjoy in a location made fragrant with the aroma of flowers. This activity depicts a recovered believer giving glory to Christ for all the spiritual developments that have occurred in her life. Having gone so far through this process, she now desires to spread wider her delight in him.
Desire for public display of love
It seems to be the case that in many parts of the Middle East it was, and is, inappropriate for a husband and wife to embrace in public. The persons that would embrace in public would be brothers and sisters. They would have grown up together and there would be no hint of anything improper when they embraced. The disciple in the poem uses this social custom to express what she now wants to demonstrate to her Beloved. The disciple wants to kiss the king in the presence of others. Until now, as she went to the fields and the villages she had been in his company, but those who observed them would not have noticed how strong her feelings were for him. Spiritually speaking, what kind of kisses can a disciple give to Jesus in public?
First, there is the kiss of reconciliation, which would show that she is now at peace with him. This type of kiss can be used in an evangelistic sense when we tell others that we have found the Saviour, that he has forgiven us our sins, and brought us into an eternal union with him. Second, there is the kiss of gratitude, which would show how thankful she was for the deliverance that she had experienced. She had a double reason for thankfulness: the king had not only brought her into a personal union with himself, he had also restored her when later she had failed to respond to his expressions of love. Third, there is the kiss of adoration, which would show that her experience of his grace had enabled her to see how great a king he is. His actions in forgiving her and restoring her had given her windows into his great heart of love. It is similar with us; each contact with Jesus should increase our perception of his immense glory. With increasing fervency of worship, we should say to him, ‘Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love’ (Mic. 7:18).
If a devoted wife would have behaved like this in everyday life, she would have caused shame to her husband and herself. This disciple had not been devoted to Christ, yet in the poem, she affirms that should she embrace Christ in a public way, she would not be despised by him. The Saviour is not embarrassed by public displays of love from failed disciples. The reality is the opposite – he is delighted when we spontaneously show the world that we want to kiss him. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is not ashamed to call his people his brothers.
Desire for a private display of love
The woman also wanted to take the king to a special place, to her mother’s house. Her words here are similar to what she says in 3:4-5, which detail her response on a previous occasion when she was restored from the experience of having lost a sense of fellowship with the king. On that occasion, she wanted to take the king to her home, where she lived. It is a picture of personal fellowship with Jesus.
Personal devotion is the place of instruction for a disciple. There is a question about how to translate the clause rendered ‘she who used to teach me’. Older translations and commentators regarded it as meaning, ‘there you shall teach me,’ that is, the king would give personal instruction to a devoted disciple as she takes him to this special location. The obvious example that comes to mind is Mary who chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and received personal instruction from him. A heart full of love is the heart that will understand most about what Jesus has to say.
Personal devotion is the place of sharing by a disciple. In this place of delightful intimacy, there is a response from the disciple. In the poem she gives him a drink of spiced pomegranate wine. It was common for people to add spices to such drinks in order to enhance the taste. The woman has taken some fruit and, by adding spices to it, she has made a drink suitable for the king to enjoy. Both the pomegranate and the spices come from her vineyard (her heart). Some of the spices are bitter and others are sweet. This drink is made up of her development in the life of grace and of appropriate feelings that mark her growth. She has the bitterness of repentance and the sweetness of love to give to her Master.
Personal devotion is the place of satisfaction for Christ. His contentment is seen in his posture of resting. This is the second time that Jesus and his disciple have been portrayed in this way (see 2:6). The difference between that previous occasion and this latter one is that she is now a restored backslider whereas previously she had been an earnest seeker. Yet she is in the place of enjoying the Saviour’s affections. In Isaiah 66:1, God asks, ‘Where is the place of my rest?’ The next verse gives the answer: ‘But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.’ Zephaniah 3:17 says: ‘The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.’
Personal communion is also the place of strength. The king is depicted here as holding up her head. We need divine strength for many reasons. It is required in order to enjoy the love of Jesus (Eph. 3:16-19). This strength is also given to enable disciples to continue in the Christian life: ‘He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint’ (Isa. 40:29-31). God is our refuge and strength (Ps. 46:1). Yet, as Paul discovered, this strength is known along with our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
Fifthly, personal communion is the place of solace, where Jesus comforts his disciple. Here the hand of the king is embracing her. It is a picture of great tenderness and gentleness. Jesus draws near and sweetly assures his disciple of his great love to her. He will remind her of his great and precious promises that detail his interest in her and his intention to do great things for her.
3. Admonition not to disturb love
The woman turns to the daughters of Jerusalem who are aware of the great delight she and the king are having in each other. She turns to them because she does not want them to disturb his rest. I suspect she does not want them to distract her from focussing on her Beloved. This is another reminder that sometimes a disciple’s fellowship with Jesus can be interrupted by fellow Christians speaking about inappropriate matters. Such matters need not be worldly, merely unsuitable to say to a person who is enjoying the love of Jesus. They could include speaking about religious matters as well as secular ones. We need to be sensitive to one another in case we disrupt spiritual intimacy.
This long poem within the Song, which had begun with the woman refusing to let the king into her location, closes with the woman now enjoying the presence of the king. Her experience had taught her the importance of maintaining a spiritually-healthy relationship with the Lover of her soul and she did not want it to be affected adversely, even by her friends.